Today, December 14, 2017, is the last day to register your Chase Freedom to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards at Walmart and department stores that you can transfer (circuitously) to United, Korean, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, and Singapore miles.
Note that the Freedom is different than the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which Scott reviewed here.
If you register by today, your Freedom purchases will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent (up to the bonus cap of $1,500 per per quarter) at Walmart and department stores retroactively to October 1, 2017, and through December 31, 2017.
With the Chase Freedom card, you can earn 5% cash back on your first $1,500 in purchases in bonus categories that rotate quarterly.
Not sure how close you are to maxing out your category bonus? Login in to your Chase account or Ultimate Rewards account online and check here to see.
These were the categories in 2017:
A couple of hours ago a Reddit contributor shared a sneak preview of 2018’s first quarter category:
That’s gas stations, internet/cable/phone services, and Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay.
Although the chart says 5% cash back, you actually earn 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar that can be redeemed for cash back at a rate of 1 cent each– that’s why all the marketing of the card features cash back language. BUT if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card, there is a second way of redeeming the Ultimate Rewards: transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred account and from there to airline miles or hotel points. I call this the Freedom Two Step.
Where You’ll Earn 5x Ultimate Rewards Retroactively From July Through Now
You can find a list of example merchants that qualify/don’t qualify as Walmart and department stores here.
Everything from fast food to fine dining should count for the restaurant category. The restaurant must stand alone, however. Food vendors within sports stadiums, hotels, casinos, theme parks, and department stores do not count.
All normal department stores should count. Target and Kmart do not, nor do wholesale clubs like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club. Although you could easily buy a Walmart gift card and use it at Sam’s. More on gift cards below.
Things like Subway or McDonald’d which might be located inside a Walmart do not count. Walmart.com and Walmart gas count.
Using Gift Cards to Maximize the Freedom’s Category Bonuses
To maximize the quarterly bonuses, you’ll need to spend $1,500 within each three month period. That would get you a total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards over the course of a year:
($1,500 in purchases x 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar) x 4 quarters in a year = 30,000 Ultimate Rewards
If you’re only shopping for one it could be difficult to spend that much in Walmart and other department stores in one fell swoop (if you haven’t already been working on it). But there is a work around that enables you to spread out that $1,500 of Walmart/department store spending over the course of a more reasonable amount of time– gift cards. Perhaps the easiest way to meet your $1,500 max is buying $200 Visa gift cards from walmart.com.
If you do what to buy department store gift cards, make sure you buy them from an actual department store included on the list of department stores that qualify.
Walmart and many other department stores offer gift cards that either don’t expire or have much longer periods of expiration than three months (the length of time this category bonus lasts).
The same practice of widening the time window you have to maximize category bonuses via gift cards could be applied to upcoming category bonuses as well.
How to Activate the Category Bonuses
Your Freedom card will not automatically start earning 5x Ultimate Rewards each time the quarter changes. You have to you register your card at chase.com to activate the category bonuses.
The deadline to activate the 4th Quarter Bonus is today, December 14, 2017. Act now before you forget!
Other Reasons to Get the Chase Freedom
- You’ll get $150 cash back or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months of opening the card
- You’ll get $25 cash back or 2,500 Ultimate Rewards when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months of opening the card
- 1% Cash back or 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other spending with no limit
- No Annual Fee
With no annual fee, It’s easy to see why this card is worth signing up for and keeping, to use whenever you’re not meeting minimum spending requirements for new cards. Everyday 1x spending aside, you can earn 47,500 Ultimate rewards just from the sign-up bonus, adding an authorized user, and maximizing the category bonuses each quarter for a year:
15,000 + 2,500 + 30,000 = 47,500
That’s either $475 cash back, or 47,500 Ultimate Rewards transferrable to seven types of airline miles or four different kinds hotel points if you also have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred you can complete the Freedom Two Step with.
If you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards this way, I value 47,500 points at $950.
What You Can Do with Your Ultimate Rewards if You Also have a Sapphire Preferred, Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred
- You can use 57,500 United miles for a one way trip in a flat bed from the United States to Europe.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents toward any Southwest flight with no blackouts. You can do better with other transfer partners, but that’s still 40% better than redeeming the Ultimate Rewards for cash back at 1 cent each.
- For only 45,000 Korean miles, you can fly roundtrip from the United States mainland to Hawaii in Delta First Class. Or you can book amazing Korean First Class for as cheap as 45,000 miles.
- Free nights at Hyatts worldwide start at 5,000 points.
- Award flights with British Airways Avios start at 4,500 miles one way, and Boston to Ireland or the west coast to Hawaii is only 12,500 miles one way.
- You can fly Singapore Suites Class for only 57,375 miles to Europe, or use 30,000 miles for a United First Class flight to Hawaii.
As you can see, transfers offer the opportunity to do way better than 1 cent per Ultimate Reward.
If you are planning on opening the Chase Freedom card and don’t already have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred, or Sapphire Reserve card, you should consider opening one or the other to expand your Ultimate Rewards redemption possibilities. Not to mention the current sign-up bonus offers of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards for the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve and 80,000 Ultimate Rewards for the Ink Business Preferred.
For purchases on the Chase Freedom card in Walmart and department stores from October 1 through December 31, you can earn 5% cash back–but you won’t passively. Make sure you register your card here before the end of today if you want to earn 5x points retroactively for this past quarter (as well for any further purchases in 2017).